I've been lucky. Or clueless. But I don't seem to have suffered from the prejudice of the male/female author thing. Or perhaps it's because I write genre, which is not considered "serious" literary fiction.
Oh, you don't know about the male/female author thing, the thing that has male authors being reviewed and taken more seriously 2 to 1 over female authors strictly because of gender bias? Yeah, that thing.
It's strange to think of it in this day and age. We're lucky in that it does seem strange, and yet it's still happening. I'm lucky because no one ever questioned a woman writing from the male perspective, as many of us do. My publisher never asked me to change my name so that it would seem that I was a man and therefore "qualified" to write what I write, but maybe it's because my name is already male-ish. Jeri is a male name and some might think that I am a man even though the name is clearly a diminutive form of "Jerry" with the "i" ending. (Of course, even the term "diminutive" is just a bit demeaning, isn't it?) And indeed, I've even had a fan letter or two from a reader who was surprised I "turned out to be a woman."
I've lived all my life with a tomboy sort of outlook. Short hair, always in jeans, climbing up or into places I shouldn't go. I usually hang around with men at parties...until they start talking sports. It's a sensibility, I guess. Which is perhaps why I feel comfortable writing male protagonists.
Even in my career choices--first as a graphic artist and then as a writer--I never felt the sting of descrimination. I don't think. Of course, I don't know if I was paid any less than my male counterparts. When I was a freelancer I most assuredly wasn't.
But the problem is out there. Sisters in Crime, the international organization of mystery writers and readers (of which I have been a member for many years and even hold the presidency for the Orange County chapter) came into being because female mystery writers found a huge inequity when it came to getting their books reviewed. Every year they give a report on how we are doing in making publications aware of this inequity. Always there are some gains and some losses. But still, after twenty years of persisting, it's still unequal, even though there are more female authors of mysteries.
In this post, author Tawni O'Dell, tells about her run ins with gender bias...from her own publisher. Yes, it's a business and I'm a pragmatist. Should it have been necessary to be published as J. L. Westerson, I would have bowed to the business acumen of my editor and publicist. But I'm glad I didn't have to. (It's a whole different story when you are writing gay fiction, as I do as Haley Walsh. Didn't know what to call myself. A man, a woman, something androgynous? As it turned out, there are a whole lot of women writing gay erotica, gay fiction, gay mysteries, so a female name was no problem. But even in gay fiction there is a bias of "serious" versus "entertaining"--that is, everything else that isn't literary fiction. Ah genre, the bastard child of literature, or as I like to put it, we put the "litter" in literature.)
We can't explain it. There's no reason for it. If our names were taken off the covers, would that do it? Because I know of certain reviewers who absolutely will not touch books written by women, as if some sort of literary cooties would rub off on them. What's with that? Why, in 2010, are we still having this discussion?
Thank goodness I don't write "serious literary fiction" or I might be more offended. I write to entertain more than to inform. But it's a shame that the shadow of inequity has to poke its nose into the business of publishing. Don't we have bigger things to worry about in this industry?